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What Are the First Signs of Kidney Damage from Alcohol?

Approximately 10 per cent of India's population is affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD), with over one lakh cases of renal failure reported annually. Regrettably, there is no cure for this condition, underscoring the importance of prevention. One strategy to mitigate the risk of kidney disease is to monitor one's alcohol consumption carefully. While alcohol itself does not directly cause CKD, it can inflict harm on the kidneys. Consequently, consistent alcohol consumption represents a risk factor.

In this blog, you will get to know about What are the first signs of kidney damage from alcohol, and What steps can individuals take to undo the damage? Continue reading to understand the effects of alcohol on the kidneys and more.

How Does Alcohol Harm Your Kidneys?

Alcohol adversely affects the kidneys by altering their processing of substances. The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins from the bloodstream, and alcohol is among these toxins.

Excessive or prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to structural and functional changes in the kidneys over time.

Alcohol induces various structural changes in the kidneys. It can thicken the glomerulus tissue, responsible for blood filtration, and enlarge the kidney tubules, which eliminate waste products from the kidneys.

These structural alterations lead to changes in kidney function, particularly reducing the kidney's efficiency in filtering alcohol from the blood and regulating bodily fluids and electrolytes.

Alcohol also indirectly impacts the kidneys through its effects on the liver and blood pressure. Chronic alcohol consumption increases the risk of hypertension and liver disease, both of which can worsen kidney damage.

What Is the Limit of Alcohol Consumption?

Consuming more than three to four alcoholic drinks per day or exceeding seven to fourteen drinks per week is considered excessive. This level of alcohol intake can double the risk of kidney damage and chronic kidney disease.

Drinking more than three to four drinks per hour can have adverse effects on the kidneys. Binge drinking, characterized by consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period, often leads to acute kidney injury. This condition involves a sudden decline in kidney function, which may or may not be reversible.

·         355ml of beer at 5% alcohol by volume (ABV)

·         236ml of malt liquor at 7% ABV

·         148ml of wine at 12% ABV

·         88ml of fortified wine at 17% ABV

·         60ml of liqueur at 24% ABV

·         44ml of liquor at 40% ABV

The safe amount of alcohol an individual can consume depends on various factors, including age and gender. Older adults and women, for instance, should limit their alcohol intake as their kidneys metabolize alcohol more slowly.

For certain populations, such as individuals with kidney or liver ailments, even minimal alcohol consumption can be detrimental. It's advisable for individuals concerned about the impact of alcohol on kidney health to seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

Can Kidneys Recover from Alcohol Damage?

Yes, kidneys have the potential to recover from alcohol-induced damage, although this isn't always the case. The outlook varies depending on the nature of the kidney damage, which typically falls into two main categories: acute and chronic damage.

Acute kidney damage, resulting from binge drinking. Defined as consuming more than four to five drinks within two hours is reversible with dialysis treatment.

Chronic kidney disease is irreversible, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications, including cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

Conversely, certain kidney damage can be reversed by abstaining from alcohol. For instance, this study examined the impact of alcohol abstinence on the following kidney abnormalities:

·         Blood electrolytes

·         Kidney tubular function

·         Blood hormones

The study revealed that refraining from alcohol for just four weeks was adequate to reverse the consequences of chronic drinking. However, abstinence did not prove effective for all participants in the study, as kidney abnormalities persisted in a small subset of individuals.

What Are the First Signs of Kidney Damage From Alcohol?

The first signs of kidney damage from alcohol encompass fluid retention, alterations in urination patterns, lethargy, and diminished appetite.

The initial symptoms occur as a result of the kidneys' reduced ability to regulate bodily fluids, leading to fluid retention. Subsequent symptoms stem from the accumulation of toxins in the bloodstream. These toxins may induce fatigue, while others possess appetite-suppressing properties.

As kidney damage advances, individuals may encounter increasingly severe side effects. It is advisable to seek medical advice if experiencing any of the following symptoms:

·         Kidney pain

·         Fever, especially if it comes with kidney pain

·         Extreme confusion

·         Loss of consciousness

·         Bloody urine

Individuals with kidney damage face an elevated risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially those with chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD is often accompanied by a weakened immune system, diminishing the body's capacity to combat infections such as UTIs.

Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Individuals experiencing kidney pain while consuming or after consuming alcohol should promptly consult a physician, especially if the discomfort intensifies over time. Kidney pain often serves as an initial indication of kidney damage.

Described as a dull ache in the lower back, kidney pain can impact either one or both sides of the spine beneath the ribcage. Gentle pressure applied to the affected area typically exacerbates the pain.

The underlying cause of kidney damage leading to these painful symptoms can vary. Some individuals may be experiencing acute kidney injuries, while others might have urinary tract infections (UTIs) or, in more severe cases, be in the early stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Acute Kidney Injury Top of Form

As previously discussed, acute kidney injury can result from a binge drinking episode. This occurs when the kidneys are overwhelmed by alcohol, leading to a slower filtration of toxins compared to their rate of entry into the bloodstream.

Kidney pain commonly accompanies acute kidney injury. Additional indicators that someone may be experiencing this condition include:

·         Reduced urination

·         Extreme fatigue

·         Swelling of the extremities

·         Breathing difficulty

·         Nausea

·         Vomiting

·         Confusion

·         Chest pain

Urinary Tract Infections

As mentioned earlier, kidney problems can heighten the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Furthermore, binge drinking or habitual alcohol intake can lead to dehydration, which is another contributing factor to UTIs.

UTIs typically present symptoms such as frequent urination and a burning sensation during urination. Kidney pain may also accompany this infection. Fortunately, receiving treatment for a UTI often resolves kidney pain.

Chronic Kidney Disease

In advanced instances, kidney pain could indicate chronic kidney disease (CKD). Symptoms are often absent during the initial stages of CKD. Nevertheless, if left untreated, symptoms may manifest in the later stages, such as:

·         Weight loss

·         Swollen feet, ankles, hands, or face

·         Exhaustion

·         Bloody urine

·         Increased urination, especially at night

·         Insomnia

·         Itchy skin

·         Muscle cramps

·         Constantly feeling sick

·         Headaches

·         Erectile dysfunction

Therapies are available to alleviate kidney pain and manage other symptoms associated with CKD. Typically, CKD treatment involves dialysis or, in severe instances, a kidney transplant.

Alcohol and Kidney Disease

Alcohol consumption may elevate the risk of kidney disease, although it does not directly cause CKD. Nonetheless, individuals with kidney disease should exercise caution when consuming alcohol.

Regular alcohol intake can double the risk of CKD. Those who also use tobacco products face a fivefold increased risk compared to non-smokers and non-drinkers.

Individuals with CKD can safely consume alcohol in moderation. Moderate drinking entails up to seven drinks per week for women and up to 14 drinks per week for men. Daily, women should limit alcohol intake to three drinks, while men should restrict themselves to four.

Preventing Kidney Damage Through Alcohol Addiction Treatment

So, you understand the first signs of kidney damage from alcohol like Fatigue, alterations in urination patterns, loss of appetite, and fluid retention are some of the primary indicators. Additionally, experiencing kidney pain during or after drinking could signify advancing kidney damage.

Concerned about the impact of alcohol on your kidneys? If you're finding it difficult to quit drinking, you might be dealing with an alcohol use disorder. Contact Kutumb Rehab today to explore our alcohol treatment program and begin your journey towards recovery.


How do you know if alcohol is damaging your kidneys?

Alcohol can damage the kidneys over time, leading to symptoms like frequent urination, swelling in the legs, feet, or face, fatigue, and changes in urine colour or frequency. Additionally, individuals may experience high blood pressure or develop kidney disease. Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider, along with blood and urine tests, can help detect kidney damage caused by alcohol consumption.

What are the 3 early warning signs of kidney disease?

Three early warning signs of kidney disease include changes in urination patterns such as increased frequency or decreased urine output, swelling in the legs, ankles, or around the eyes due to fluid retention, and fatigue or weakness from anaemia caused by reduced kidney function. If experiencing these symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and management.

How do you detox your kidneys from alcohol?

To detox your kidneys from alcohol, increase water intake to flush out toxins, reduce alcohol consumption, and avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages. Consume kidney-friendly foods like berries, leafy greens, and lean proteins. Incorporate herbal teas like dandelion or parsley tea, known for their diuretic properties. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and to ensure safe detoxification methods.

What does kidney pain from alcohol feel like?

Kidney pain from alcohol can manifest as a dull ache or discomfort in the lower back or sides, where the kidneys are located. It may be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, or changes in urine colour or frequency. Persistent or severe pain should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

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